Salem mom plans to buy Nintendo Switch, save for a house with vaccine lottery winnings

Ana Jimenez with her children on a trip to Mexico (Courtesy/Ana Jimenez)

Ana Jimenez had no idea Oregon was running a vaccine lottery.

The 40-year-old Salem resident was on a trip visiting family in Mexico in early July when she got a call from the state telling her she’d won $10,000.

“I thought it was a joke because sometimes you get calls saying you won this, you won that,” Jimenez said, speaking in Spanish. “It was a big surprise to me.”

Jimenez is the Marion County winner for the “Take Your Shot, Oregon” Covid vaccination lottery, which Gov. Kate Brown announced May 21 in hopes of boosting the state’s lagging vaccination rates.

In addition to a $1 million winner, the Oregon Lottery selected one resident from each of the state’s counties for a $10,000 prize. To be eligible, recipients had to get at least one dose of Covid vaccine by June 27. Winners were announced publicly Monday.

Jimenez has lived in Salem for two years after moving to the area from California. She used to work for a company manufacturing wood kitchen furnishings, but left her job during the pandemic to help her eight-year-old daughter and seven-year-old son with online school.

When Covid vaccines became available, Jimenez said she took her first opportunity to get a shot.

Her husband had Covid in the middle of 2020, and while he recovered from his illness, she said he still has some lingering fatigue.

“He’s more tired than before at work,” she said.

Her uncle, who lived in Reno, Nevada, contracted Covid and fought the virus three weeks before dying.

“It’s a very ugly sickness,” she said.

Jimenez was already a patient at the Lancaster Family Health Center in southeast Salem, a community health center focused on caring for low-income, farmworker and Spanish-speaking patients.

In early March when Covid vaccines were still scarce, the Oregon Health Authority said some health centers could begin offering Covid vaccines to any of their patients, not just those eligible based on age or other risk factors. The Lancaster clinic was among those selected in hopes of making the vaccine rollout more equitable.

Jimenez got her first shot March 27, she said, and a second dose in late April.

She and her husband have been saving for a house, and Jimenez said they’ll put the bulk of her winnings toward that goal. But she said her kids have been asking for a Nintendo Switch, and she intends to surprise them with the video game system.

She said she’d encourage other Oregonians to get a shot to prevent illness like her husband had, and to return to more normal life.

“Get vaccinated and have more liberty,” she said. “Since we got the vaccine, we had the opportunity to travel.”

Contact reporter Rachel Alexander: [email protected] or 503-575-1241.

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Rachel Alexander is Salem Reporter’s managing editor. She joined Salem Reporter when it was founded in 2018 and covers city news, education, nonprofits and a little bit of everything else. She’s been a journalist in Oregon and Washington for a decade. Outside of work, she’s a skater and board member with Salem’s Cherry City Roller Derby and can often be found with her nose buried in a book.